graphic of employee files to keep

3 Employee Files to Keep

There are three distinct employee files you should keep from the moment you hire your first employee. These files are

  1. an I-9 file,
  2. general employee files, and
  3. employee medical files.

I-9 File

Form I-9 is used to verify the identity and employment eligibility of new hires. Each new employee will complete Section 1 of the I-9 and present you with acceptable documents of identification. You’ll complete Section 2 for each new employee.

You don’t have to file any of your employees’ forms, unless the federal government asks, in writing, to inspect them. You must, however, keep the forms for three years after your employee’s hire date or for one year after an employee is terminated, whichever is later.

To ensure your employees’ forms are easily accessible, keep them all in one file, instead of filing them under individual employee records.

General Employee Files

Your general employee files are for your own benefit and document an employee’s employment history from their application through their exit interview and employment termination documentation.

You should have a clear policy concerning access to employee’s records. This policy should include that only you (or your HR staff) and the employee’s immediate supervisor have access to the files, and that the files don’t leave the HR office. Consider allowing your employees to view their own records, but only with advance notice.

Before filing a document, consider the following questions:

  • Will you need this document to justify decisions if you’re sued?
  • Would you need the document in a court of law?
  • Does the employee know and understand that the document will be filed?

Only place facts in an employee’s file – no opinions or personal notes. Whenever a document is filed, have the employee sign it to verify that they know the document is being filed.

An employee’s file should include their employment history, performance, and termination records.

Employment History

An employee’s history with your company begins with their job application and should also include:

  • their resume and cover letter;
  • education verification;
  • offer letter or rejection letter;
  • employment agreement or contract;
  • signed handbook acknowledgement;
  • checklist from onboarding, showing which topics were covered;
  • emergency contact information;
  • forms W-4;
  • payroll information;
  • benefit programs participation; and
  • life of employment forms, such as requests for transfer, promotions, and internal job applications.

Employee Performance

Records about each employee’s performance should include:

  • performance reviews;
  • self-assessments;
  • notes on attendance and tardiness;
  • performance improvement plan documentation;
  • disciplinary action reports;
  • complaints from customers or coworkers;
  • formal suggestions or recommendations, including company responses;
  • training records;
  • competencies assessments; and
  • employee recognition.

Termination Records

When an employee quits, or is fired, keep track of their termination records, including:

  • resignation or termination letter;
  • exit interview documentation;
  • notice of the employee’s right to continue health insurance coverage under COBRA;
  • employment ending checklist;
  • final accounting, including final paycheck, unused vacation pay, and return of company property.

Employee Medical Files

Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), you must protect all your employees’ medical records and keep them confidential. Store any medical information separately, in a safe and locked location. If you’re unsure if a document is confidential medical information, always err of the side of caution.

Your employees’ medical files should include:

  • health insurance applications and forms;
  • life insurance application and forms;
  • designated beneficiary information;
  • applications for other medically-related benefits programs, such as vision insurance;
  • requests for paid or unpaid medical leave;
  • Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) reports, applications, and paperwork;
  • physician-signed FMLA paperwork;
  • physician’s exams, notes, correspondence, and recommendations;
  • medically-related excuses for absenteeism or tardiness from a physician;
  • documentation for medical job restrictions;
  • accident and injury reports, including Occupational and Safety Health Administration (OSHA) documentation; and
  • workers’ compensation reports for injuries or illnesses.